At times you become so engrossed in the day job, projects, family life, surviving the challenges of racial micro-aggressions, systemic racism and everyday challenges that result from the intersection of race and gender, etc. You end up literally falling into autopilot mode and forget to take a moment to just ‘stop’!
The last three weeks have been difficult. My credibility and integrity have been brought into question. Like my many black mothers and sisters who have gone before me, and black women of this era who encounter barriers, challenges, and even ridicule because of their activism, their work ethics, even their intelligence. I adorned myself with the masquerade of ‘strong black woman’ and continued, to carry on. Not even my close associates, people I come into contact with daily, are aware of my current struggle.
I share this because of the affirmation I received this evening as ran through the South Downs. I decided to be accompanied by DJ Proclaimer gospel reggae takeover show, playing in my ears. I don’t usually listen to music when I run in the Downs, that’s what makes this run even more profound because DJ Proclaimer’s motivational words, backed up with Christian teachings and several songs spoke directly to me and my current situation.
One specific song resonated with me, Judith Gayle’s song ‘I’m approved’. This song played when I reached the top of a peak in the South Downs. I had to raise my hands and skank. The ecstatic feeling of running up a South Downs hill and reaching the top without stopping, and knowing I have accomplished my Doctorate, published my thesis with a reputable academic publisher, and achieved my goal, which was to make black women as gendered racialised subjects visible in prison occupational literature, deserved a moment of acknowledgment and needed to be put into perspective in relation to my current ordeal. The words:
I am approved, when man says disapprove, God says I approve. You are approved when man says disapprove, God says I approve”
I came to the realisation, that it really does not matter what others may or may not think about me, because what I have achieved, no one can take that away from me. And if I choose to ‘stop’ for a moment, then I will because I have nothing to prove. My reputation and research speak for themselves. I’m human, not superwoman. So today, I remove the mask of the strong black woman.